|The Traditional Chief of Gobir province|
By Thierry Delvigne-Jean
TCHADI, Niger 15 April 2005 - The role of Niger’s Traditional Chiefs has evolved in modern times.
Although they no longer hold the power of emperors or kings, they do function in tandem with the country’s government; settling social conflicts and acting as intermediaries in real estate and marital disputes.
Their authority and prestige is undisputed.
UNICEF has been working formally with the Association des Chefs Traditionels du Niger (ACTN) since 2001, when the association agreed to team up to change attitudes and beliefs that are harmful to the health of women and children.
“UNICEF has developed a partnership with Traditional Chiefs because they have a great influence in our country. Communities trust them, and when a chief speaks, the population listens,” said Anne Ouedraogo, UNICEF Programme Officer in Niger.
Promoting girls’ education is one focus of the activities Chiefs focus on, along with preventing diseases such as malaria and polio, and promoting immunization.
In Gobir province their message is backed up by Bridges de Bonne Conduite (Good Behaviour Brigades), which have been established in 120 villages.
“Young people have been trained in each of the villages. Each brigade is a team that sensitizes communities on the importance of, for example, sending children to school - girls in particular. Or on early marriages, because there are many young girls aged between nine to ten years who are married in this region, and we noticed that during their first pregnancy - because they are not strong enough - there have been many deaths in surrounding villages,” said Anne Ouedraogo.
The main component of the Chiefs’ work is an extensive tour that they all take between the months of May and November when they visit every village under their authority to discuss important social issues. UNICEF also conducts regular training sessions with the Chiefs to hone their communications skills and encourages them to attend national and international meetings to exchange ideas with other leaders.
23 November 2004:
UNICEF’s Chris Niles reports on the message Traditional Chiefs are giving the girls of Gabir province.
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